By SHERI GASSAWAY
A group of local union members has taken it upon themselves to provide lifesaving doses of NARCAN to the St. Louis community in areas where it’s needed most to help combat the opioid crisis.
The group, spearheaded by Insulators Local 1 retiree Kevin FitzGerald, has created several newspaper-like dispenser boxes to house NARCAN, which is a nasal spray medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. The “life boxes” can also hold information, books, feminine hygiene products, condoms and other necessities.
“This is yet another example of Organized Labor stepping up to help community,” FitzGerald said. “They are helping others in addition to their own membership. It could not have been completed at the high level of craftsmanship without the union members. I am extremely grateful and many will benefit.”
FitzGerald came up with the idea after coming across three old newspaper dispenser boxes, which he converted into life boxes. After not being able to find additional boxes, FitzGerald asked Lynda Mueller-Drendel, a retired instructor at the Carpenter’s Joint Apprenticeship Program, for help in constructing more of the life boxes.
Drendel, a Carpenters Local 97 retiree, approached her union about the effort and it donated $850 for the project. The Sisters in the Brotherhood of the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council contributed $250 to pay for the use of the Carpenters’ school for the day.
Drendel rounded up a team of five journeywomen and five apprentices who spent the day creating the boxes, which were made with Nexos, a product for outdoor use. The hinges were cabinet quality and installed inside of the unit, thus keeping them out of the elements.
‘GREAT DEAL OF WORK’
“This project has been a great deal of work for all involved,” FitzGerald said. “It is wonderfully satisfying to see so many different people, come together to produce something that is fulfilling a dire need. Something that will, quite literally save lives.”
After the boxes were completed, the units were taken to Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 whose members crafted and installed tin roofs. They were then delivered to FitzGerald’s home where he painted them. Brick City Stickers, a women-owned CWA Local 6300 print shop, made stickers for the boxes that say Narcan or Life Box.
Don Moushey, a Local 36 retiree and longtime friend of FitzGerald, designed and built stands for the units and helped install some of them around town. Most recently, the duo installed a life box outside of at Hi-Tech Charities at 5920 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in Wellston.
“These life boxes are not placed willy-nilly,” FitzGerald said. There is too much work and money involved in them. If you are an organization/person that is active in our crisis, please contact me. You will be responsible for upkeep, and making certain that NARCAN is in the boxes at all times.”
ANOTHER COMMUNITY EFFORT
In addition to the life boxes, FitzGerald has also engaged in another effort to help the area’s unhoused by asking union members and others to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“There is a group of women who work at CWA 6300 who never fail to make sandwiches at the office and send them to me every darn week,” he said. “I’m grateful to them and others for their support.”
For more information on the life boxes or the Peanut Butter and Jelly Brigade, contact FitzGerald at 636-399-4147.